‘Mind the gap’

Best selling historical novelist Elizabeth St John launched her latest book, By Love Divided, at Lydiard House, a setting that plays an important part in this 17th century story.

The book launch began with a tour of St Mary’s Church during which Elizabeth introduced us to some of the characters in her book. Paul Gardner, Chair of the St Mary’s Conservation Appeal, opened the St John polyptych, a genealogical masterpiece at the centre of which is a family portrait of Sir John St. John 1st Baronet with his wife, parents and six sisters, four of whom appear in Elizabeth’s novels.

Guests at Thursday’s event included the Earl and Countess of Bathurst of Cirencester Park, who trace their ancestry back to Allen Apsley, a central character in By Love Divided; Nicola Cornick, author of House of Shadows, and Jane Rutherfoord, an internationally renowned wall painting conservationist who has recently completed a survey on the wall paintings in St Mary’s Church.

The afternoon was steeped in 17th century history as Elizabeth gave us some background to the series of novels in The Lydiard Chronicles and the people and places that played such a significant role in the English Civil War.

An engaging and entertaining speaker, Elizabeth makes light of the hard work involved in writing her novels.

So how does the historical novelist work? Elizabeth gave some insights into the documents she has researched and places she has visited including The Queen’s House at the Tower of London where Lucy and Sir Allen Apsley raised their family to Donnington Castle, the site of a field hospital where Allen Apsley took his mortally wounded cousin, Edward St John.

But of course, there is always the period in between historical events where there is no recorded evidence where Elizabeth reminds herself to ‘Mind the gap.’

Elizabeth now returns to the US where she will begin to map out the next book in The Lydiard Chronicles, introducing her readers to two larger than life characters, John Wilmot, the licentious 2nd Earl of Rochester and his cousin, Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine, mistress of Charles II and mother of five of his illegitimate children. This should be fun!

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